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Thinking about the relative calm of Solar Cycle 24, I decided to visit Spaceweather.com and see what the sunspot number was for today (78, in case you were wondering). Interestingly they had a story and graph from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center addressing exactly how calm (in relative terms) this cycle has been as well as when maximum is predicted to occur. Here is the chart they had reproduced:
Updated in early December, the above chart shows you the actual number of observed spots from January of 2000, through November of this year. With the red line identifying the predicted sunspot values for the remainder of this cycle, it is curious to see that we are well below the line of even what was predicted to be a weak cycle. And while the cycle certainly progressed slowly, Spaceweather.com has noted that we may already be past the maximum for this cycle! I agree, as it appears to me that the actual observation curve (the blue line) has begun to taper down. There are historical cycles that have had double peaks, so what happens over the next year will be interesting. If you care to see the cycle that was predicted (in May of 2009) click on the graph at right. You can see that the maximum was predicted to occur in mid-2013.